The Criminal Justice System
Learning about the criminal justice system has been quite an experience. Not only does the course allow me to take a peep at the system that has been spotlighted and dramatized in many movies and television series, but it has set right many of my misconceptions about the system. The association of corruption to law enforcement is not new, or the sad state of our prison system a novelty, but I did not know that the prosecution plays a very powerful role in the system.
Whenever the subject of criminal justice crops up, my first instinct is to associate it with the courts or the defense: the former because they promulgate the principles or dicta of cases, and the latter because they have the formidable task of saving the life, liberty and property of the defendants. It thus, came as a surprise to me that it is the prosecution that actually wields the real power because they can indirectly alter and manipulate the course of cases. I was also amazed that plea bargaining has become the norm rather than the exception in the criminal justice system.
The idea of negotiating sentences and charges seems so alien to the ideals of justice.
If I have the power to institute changes in any of the components, links in the chain of or practices in the criminal justice system I will reform corrections. Corrections must be reformed because it has failed to meet its goal in the face of high rates of recidivism. It has failed to prepare convicts for their re-entry to society after release. This reform, however, can only come after a legislative amendment of the present criminal laws or changes in policies. Mass imprisonment must give way to a more realistic, more humane and more practical policy that will effectively rehabilitate defendants, rather than deepen their engagement in criminality. Society cannot just shove everyone who commits a crime inside prisons without making distinctions as to degrees of culpability. This is far too easy, but also far too dangerous and costly not only for the offender but, ultimately for society.